That’s the way I like it
THE majority of the current generation listen to music through digital means, be it via the ubiquitous compact disc or downloads. That’s pretty much the scenario here anyway, but while it is a rare breed, a younger crop of listeners has been enlightened by the sight and sound of the analogue LP record.
Hard to fathom, perhaps, but three discerning music listeners share their fascination and love for the vinyl record.
Guitarist Smack, 26, of new post-punk local outfit Killur Calculateur got into records when he was introduced to the format during a gigging tour of Europe. “The vinyl culture is really big there. All the new bands make vinyl pressings of their albums and thus was born my appreciation for it,” he says.
The situation wasn’t too dissimilar for 30-year-old sales executive Boon Tan. “I got into it seven years ago while I was working with an event organiser and record store. They mainly carry electronica titles; this was when my collection began. I am not a collector and don’t usually go for out-of-print titles. I collect what I like. I’m just an enthusiast,” he says.
EJ, a 27-year-old working in the entertainment industry, was influenced by what he had read in hi-fi forums. “They talked about the so-called vinyl magic and how people actually enjoyed music better on vinyl. So I bought my first TT Goldring (cartridge) and progressed from there,” he reveals.
Works of art
Quality sound is perhaps the most common (and obvious) reason for vinyl indulgence, but there are other quantifiable aspects to the experience that contribute just as significantly to the joys of the format. Due to the sheer size of the artwork, LP record covers are stunning works of art. And the liner notes and gatefold (folded covers) sleeve designs are just as inviting.
“The whole vinyl experience is something else … it’s the whole package. From the crackles at the start of the record and the warmth of the sound, it truly needs to be experienced,” Smack insists.
“Yes, the bigger artwork is extremely attractive, especially on classical and jazz records, where the liner notes are also lengthy and interesting,” echoes Boon.
“There is pleasure in making the effort to play an LP. I remember furiously rewinding out cassettes to hear a particular part in a song. Call it mental placebo, but LPs make you pay attention to stuff,” EJ suggests.
Smack’s listening diet on records includes screamo bands, hardcore and more. “I also listen to Portishead and alt-country stuff like Ryan Adams and Wilco,” he says.
Boon’s sonic taste buds opt for something different. “I’m open to all kinds of music but classical and jazz are my preference.”
It’s basically rock for EJ. “I don’t make a distinction but I tend to listen to rock the most. 1980s pop and motion picture soundtracks would probably be next in line. LPs I will probably play until I drop dead include The Libertines, The Cars’ Candy-O, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Portishead’s Roseland NYC Live.”
Record buying is highly enjoyable and Smack says he’s prepared to go either second-hand or brand-new. “It depends on availability. I’ve ordered on the Internet before and I’ve also gone to Amcorp Mall (in Petaling Jaya) to buy second-hand ones.”
Likewise Boon says: “Usually jazz and classical records are out of print and labels seldom want to reissue old titles on vinyl. But with some of the new bands, you can actually get new pressings.”
Collecting records can be a life-long endeavour and every collector works at his own pace. Smack has 20 odd titles in his collection while Boon is the proud owner of a 300-piece collection. “As of now, I have around 50,” shares EJ.
While any turntable is capable of playing records, the more discerning tend to favour belt-driven players. Smack opts for an old JVC while Boon has complete faith in his Technics SL 1200. “I use an entry-level Clearaudio with Goldring cartridge,” EJ enthuses.
Given their respective ages, it’s not surprising that all three were avid CD and cassette fans before arriving at their vinyl allegiance. “I am an 80s kid, so naturally, I listened to both formats,” Boon owns up.
While it’s not obvious, EJ has a theory on why vinyl might be reaching out to the younger audiences. “For the locals, I generally think they are either in pursuit of better sounding material or are playing it as a novelty. With listeners in the US, it’s probably the former. It also helps that used records are more affordable there; at least that’s the impression I get from reading the forum threads. It’s a fun and affordable way of discovering music.”
Smack has his own take on the situation, though. “Because certain bands are releasing LP titles first, fans want that sense of exclusivity and cult-type following. Bands like The Mars Volta have also released LP versions of their albums which are different from the CD, and fans want this uniqueness.”